Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sunset Limited - conflict and contradiction by Filipe Ferreira

O título da obra The Sunset Limited remete para um comboio do mesmo nome que faz a travessia dos EUA do Atlântico até o Pacífico. A mítica viagem para o Oeste, que muitas vezes na literatura dos EUA representa a descoberta do novo o renascer, mas que também pode ser o sítio onde termina uma viagem, onde o Sol se põe.

As duas personagens, Black e White cruzaram-se numa estação de metro (lugar subterrânio, viagem aos infernos), onde o primeiro impediu o suicídio do segundo.

A primazia nesta obra é dada à palavra, aos diálogos, tudo o resto é reduzido ao mínimo, o cenário e as indicações de cena.

A acção decorre no apartamento de Black, um local à parte, fechado para o mundo exterior, na porta uma coleção de cadeados e trancas parecem querer proteger o local do mal que está lá fora, sobre a mesa uma bíblia e um jornal a primeira marca este local como um lugar onde é a “palavra de Deus” que reina o segundo uma ligação mediada ao mundo exterior.

As personagens caracterizam-se de forma bastante distinta e cumprem a sua vida de acordo com certezas, narrativas sobre a existência que vão confrontar tentando fazer prevalecer uma sobre a outra.

“Me? I'm just a dumb country nigger from Louisiana. I done told you. I aint never had the first thought in my head. If it aint in here [na bíblia] then I dont know it.”

“If it ain't got the lingering scent of divinity to it, I ain't interested in it.”

“I believe in the primacy of intelect”

“You give up the world line by line. Stoically. And then one day you realize that your courage is farcical. It doesn't mean anything. You've become an acomplice in your own annihilation and there is nothing you can do about it. Everything you do closes a door somewhere ahead of you. And finally there is only one door left.”

As personagens seguem em sentidos “diferentes”:

Black vem de uma situação que caracterizava como “Death in life.”, até que uma “revelação divina”, o momento em que ouviu o que diz ter sido a voz de deus “If it were not for the grace of God you would not be here” fez com que passasse a dedicar a sua vida à palavra de Deus “If you never speak again you know I'll keep your word.”, à vida eterna “He said you could have life everlasting. Have it today. Hold it in your hand.”.

White valorizava a erudição “Books and music and art […] have value to me. [...]foundations of civilization., até o ponto em que se desiludio com as suas crenças “The things I believed in don’t exist any more. It’s foolish to pretend that they do. Western Civilization finally went up in smoke in the chimneys at Dachau but I was too infatuated to see it. I see it now” o que deseja é a morte absoluta “I yearn for the darkness. I pray for death. Real death. If I thought that in death I would meet the people I've known in life […] That would be the ultimate horror.”

“I want the dead to be dead. Forever. And I want to be one of them”.

Ao longo do texto as personagens vão jogar com a linguagem como criadora de significados, interpretando a realidade de formas diferentes e tentando fazer prevalecer uma interpretação sobre a outra. Ambos utilizão expressões do outro como ponte de ligação entre as narrativas, como ferramenta para contra-argumentar, como subversão da argumentação do outro. (Primacy; Loathe; Facetious; Trick bag; Constituents; Niger; Jailhouse/penitentiary; Mojo.)

“But not the primacy of all them folks waitin on a later train.”

“I might be warming up the trick bag”

A “vitória” intelectual será de White que abandona o apartamento aparentemente para o seu encontro com o Sunset Limited. Black, abalado, termina perguntando a Deus “If you wanted me to help him how come you didnt give me the words? You give em to him. What about me?”, reafirmando a sua devoção à palavra de Deus e a pergunta repetida “Is that okay? Is that okay?”.

Expressões conotativas em Sunset Limited, de Cormac MccCarthy - por Sofia Freitas

As serious as a heart attack.  Black claims to be this at the beginning of the Sunset Limited. One could see a kind of morbid humor in such a statement, considering Black has just finished stopping another man from committing suicide when he says it. If Black wasn’t serious, things could lead back to White trying to kill himself again.
The lingering scent of divinity. A catch phrase Black hears from a preacher. Black claims he does not think of anything that does not have the lingering scent of divinity; an interesting point to note is that, throughout the story, Black’s arguments to dissuade White from his point of view all end up drawing from the same idea that it is through believing in God and in the light that White can see life with new purpose.
I read the Book of Job. White claims this when asked whether he has read the Bible or not. The irony of the statement is not lost on the reader, considering that the Book of Job deals with the theme of God’s punishment of the just and can be criticized in a way that would portray God as an incompetent entity or as one who does not care to save or help those who are faithful and just. This would end up showing the very action of reading the Bible, a book dedicated to God, and Black’s convictions towards believing in God as achieving happiness, as pointless and foolish ventures.
See when that next uptown express is due. The ‘uptown express’, as Black calls it, is the Sunset Limited: the train that crosses the country from Louisiana to California can be seen as a way for someone who comes from a poorer background (typically those living in Louisiana have less favorable living conditions than California; California is considered one of the states with the highest amount of billionaires living in it) to get to a ‘richer’ state. We can see the Sunset Limited as a metaphor or a perverse representation of White’s ‘ascension’ to a better reality. Black tries to show White ‘the light’ and tries to steer him towards what he believes is a better way of thinking by keeping him away from the ‘uptown express.’ White, on the other hand, finds the ‘uptown express’ to be his ticket to a better state of being.
Fixin’ to put you in the trickbag. The ‘trickbag’ is Black’s code for a group of experiences and information that he commits to memory and saves for future use. The trickbag seems to be what the characters refer to as their deposit for arguments and expressions that might later advance their rhetoric, and this ends up being called back to a few times during the narrative.
Moral leper colony. If taken literally, those who would suffer of moral leprosy would theoretically be those whose morals would slowly degrade into nothingness, individuals having a disease that can never truly be cured. White refers to the people living in Black’s neighborhood as a colony where the people are beyond saving.

Constituents. Black mentions constituents as something one can have in order to organize, or to live their life; the word is an interesting marker of Black’s own social background, as it happens to be used amongst prisoners and drug peddlers. White questions why he’d need constituents and Black claims he does not necessarily need them, but the opinion that one should live one’s life by feeling like they are a part of something (for instance, like Black believes he is part of God’s plan by doing his best as one of his faithful) in order to find happiness is something we can infer from the conversation. White does not feel like he is a part of anything, he does not feel like a ‘constituent’ in anything, not even where he teaches or among his family. There is a lack of belonging, and, while Black admits that he doesn’t necessarily need to belong to anything, there can is truth in stating that some people can in fact feel more fulfilled, feel like their lives have meaning, when they believe they are a part of something, be it a higher purpose or something more mundane.
Manual overrider. Black’s ‘manual override’ would make him revert to his violent ways. The manual override implies that Black would stop forcing himself to be a good man to others and to just let himself go and give way to despair. White finds the expression interesting perhaps because he sees the irony of Black applying the catch-phrase without truly giving it deeper consideration. If we take into account that he has, in fact, to force himself to care and to continue living, we can assume that life is too Black as much a bleak and painful experience as it is to White; by stopping himself from going into manual override, Black is simply struggling against what is inevitable in White’s eyes.
Communal misery. White’s concept of communal misery is exactly what it sounds like. It is the search of kinship through the common ground of being miserable. People group together in function of how miserable they feel, and White does not see how something like that could be in any way something anyone would wish to do. Socialization seems to be, for White, something people do to avoid introspection, to avoid thinking about their situations on their own. It is then a type of coping mechanism for those who still practice living. In a religious context, believing in God is just a different flavor of deluding oneself into believing that life is not devoid of happiness.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Terminal Commuters vs. (Every)day Travelers - Practice exercise for the test

Thinking of these opposition in several texts throughout the Post-1945 US Literature Course, choose A. or B., relating any of your writings with at least 3 of the texts we have studied:

1. Write a commentary on the struggle of the approaches to life, movement, mobility and community in your preferred texts in this class.

2. Write a creative text dramatizing the struggle between these notions.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Please try to be in class on time tomorrow

Our guest will be there at 2.00 p. m. sharp and there are people who will have to leave early. Let's make our best.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Jim Train by A. M. Homes

Please comment
- on the symbolism of the train and the journey in the short story
- on relevant passages (with examples) of the image of the United States

Charles Reis Felix - special class on the 10 th December

Dear students
the texts for the special class on the 10th december are already in the moodle platform:
and in the "fotocopiadora vermelha" (red photocopy store"
Please read by order of importance:
1. Charles Reis Felix, "I don't want a Portagee in the family" from Through a Portagee Gate (2004)
2. Interview with Charles Reis Felix by Francisco Cota Fagundes
3. Article by Fagundes on Through a Portagee Gate
4. Article by Fagundes on Da Gama, Cary Grant and the 1934 Elections

Please note that the chapter "I don't want a Portagee in the family" will replace, in our reading list, the text by  Sherman Alexie, The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2004)